Does it Really Matter?

FeaturedDoes it Really Matter?

I’ll admit, the last 2 or 3 weeks have been both very spiritual and very challenging. On June 6th I officially received my signed Temple recommend again. I haven’t had a valid one since 2014. On June 9th me and some friends went to the Las Vegas Temple to do an endowment session. My first in about 3 and half years. I was so excited to go again and a little scared. You see, on October 9th 2010, I went to the temple and took out my own endowments in the Manti Temple. Consequently, it was the same day that we were doing the endowment work for my deceased brother, Ryan, on that day as well. It was a special day. So many people came down for the session. It was a full session and to boot, the temple was closing after that day for 2 weeks to be cleaned so it was a packed temple all day that day.  So on June 9th, I went back to the temple with a small group of friends. It was so wonderful to be back. Just like in 2010, I thought, Yes…..I’ve arrived. I made it.  Sounds amazing right? Well, for most people it would be, and for me, don’t get me wrong it was amazing. My closest friends met me in the Celestial room and hugged me and welcomed me home. It was so surreal. I imagine that is what heaven is like, when we pass away we are greeted by those who have passed away before us and they give us big hugs and welcome us home. They’ve just been up their waiting for us to return.

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So that was the big day, I didn’t even make it out of the dressing room into the chapel before having the spirit hit me so strong. Already tears in my eyes but trying to hold it together. During the session, I cried more. This will become a theme for the next few weeks. Crying. It’s like I have a faucet in my head that just turns on whenever it feels like it. Here come the water works.  I’ve never been so much of a crier before. I mean, yes I cry, but seriously, this was getting ridiculous. I went to the temple 2 more times after June 9th, and each time was more special than the last. However, in between these special temple visits (I’m going again tomorrow by the way), I have felt a deep depression. It bothers me that I can have what I worked so hard for and be able to experience these miraculous blessings for myself and on behalf of the dead, and then feel depressed the rest of the week. I find that notion unsettling to say the least.

 

I think this happens to me often. I never really analyzed it before, but I have spent months preparing to go back to the temple. I’ve been laser focused on it. Now that I’ve achieved that, it’s like I have a bit of a lack of focus. Maybe that’s kind of the same thing that returned missionaries experience when they come home from missions. They’ve spent all that time devoted to serving others and then they are supposed to integrate back into their former lives. I’m sure it’s not quite the same, but maybe it is similar. I spent all that time just focused on this one thing and then when I achieved it, it was like, great! Now what am I going to work towards now? So I think that is a bit of the issue, and it’s not that I don’t have things I need to still work on and progress towards and fix, we all do. It’s that there isn’t that focus. There is so much you could work on and progress towards that it’s almost like, what do I do first? Where do I go from here? Does it really matter?

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Does it really matter? What an odd rhetorical question that is. Seriously, everything matters right? Here is where I think some of my problem lies, I think everything matters now. Okay maybe not everything. I can make decisions about what to eat or what to wear without praying to see if I’m right. However, I find myself in a position of what if I make the wrong choice? What if I turn left and I should have turned right? What if I take the wrong job? What if I close my business and it’s not the right thing to do? What if I choose one debt management solution over another and I choose wrong? What if I make a decision for my family and it’s wrong? Literally the what if’s can go on forever. So the thought I had tonight is….does it really matter? Does all of that really matter to God? Am I just needlessly stressing myself out? Am I praying about things and not getting clear answers because God literally doesn’t care which of the what if solutions I choose? So the thought that came to me is it doesn’t matter. It makes no difference to God if I take one job over another. It makes no difference to Him if I pick one company over another. What matters to Him is that I make a choice. That I make that choice based on the information I have on hand. What I’ve been doing is waiting for Him to make the choice for me.  I’ve been being passive and hoping he’d tell me if I was right or wrong. I’ve been so afraid to make a wrong decision (because let’s face it, I’m good at wrong decisions) that I haven’t made any decisions. I’ve just, instead, resorted to standing still instead of moving in one direction or another. Waiting for the path to carry me in one direction or another as if it was some large conveyor belt that could move me. Driving my friends crazy with my indecisiveness.

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In the process of me standing still and waiting for answers to come, I’ve become paralyzed. The adversary is using my new-found spirituality and prayer against me. Making me think that I am somehow doing something wrong because I’m not getting the answers to my prayers. The truth is, I’m getting them, I’m just not understanding them. I’m not understanding that no answer, possibly means that God is saying, eh….do it if you want to, it is inconsequential to me or to you whether you do or you don’t. As long as you are living righteously and providing for your family, I care not where the funds come from, or as long as you pay your debts, I care not how you pay them.

My depression probably has some other things tied to it as well, but I think the lack of action on certain worries is a part of it. I’ve failed to act out of fear of making the wrong choice, however, in not making a choice, I’ve just failed to act which doesn’t get me anywhere but stuck. I think the Lord doesn’t care which decision we make over another as long as the choices are both righteous choices. It doesn’t really matter to Him.

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Finally, I’ve determined that what does matter is serving others. Serving our families, our friends, our communities, our country, and yes even our ancestors by doing temple work for the dead. Heavenly Father cares not about how we earn our money as long as it is legally earned and he doesn’t care much about how we spend it as long as we pay our debts. I’m sure he cares a little how we spend it but not really that much. What he does care about is if we have served. If we have helped another in need. If we have committed to doing temple work for those who passed before us. That is what really matters to him. Henry B. Eyring stated in the First Presidency message for July, 2017 the following:

“In the Master’s service, we come to know and love Him. We will, if we persevere in prayer and faithful service, begin to recognize the hand of the Savior and the influence of the Holy Ghost in our life. Many of us have for a period given such service and felt that companionship. If you think back on that time, you will remember that there were changes in you. The temptation to do evil seemed to lessen. The desire to do good increased. Those who knew you best and loved you may have said: “You have become kinder and more patient. You don’t seem to be the same person.”

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The idea is that we are all here to endure to the end, but the message of President Eyring is how well do we endure? Anyone can endure but do we endure well? Me, not so much. So that is definitely something to work on along with my patience, service, and of course continually moving forward and not staying stuck. I think the combination of those things might be the spiritual balance I need to avoid the ever-present spiritual hangover I get after coming off of an extreme spiritual high only to crash to the depressive low. I want to strike that perfect balance and maintain the perfect spiritual buzz and just ride it all the way to eternity.

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So basically, my major epiphany is that whenever I make a goal, I go full force at it until I reach it and then after I reach the goal, I have this void in its place that causes me to come crashing down to this low point until I find something else to fill the void of that goal. Usually another goal, but what happens is eventually I get burned out on the high/low yo-yo existence and I just crash for an extended (seemingly permanent) vacation. This is usually where I hit the “screw it” button and go off the rails. So this time, I feel like I need to perfect not just enduring, but enduring well. Get outside of myself, get outside of my head, stop thinking that I have to be so laser focused on one goal. Maybe the answer is to make smaller goals that don’t require quite so much energy. Also, the other epiphany was that God does not concern himself with every decision I make in my life, and it’s okay to make some of them without waiting for him to tell me “yes” or “no”.  Because sometimes it doesn’t really matter.

Life’s a Journey, Not a Destination

Life’s a Journey, Not a Destination

My life can best be described as me rushing to get to a finish line that doesn’t exist. You know what I mean? You have a goal in mind, whatever it might be, and you think to yourself, once I reach that goal….then…..then I’ll be finished. Then my life will make sense. Then I will be happy. Right? Is that just me or does anyone else do that? So what always happens is I get to that goal and then I think YES! I’ve made it! I finally arrived! I can relax cause I’m done right? WRONG! Because life is a journey and it’s ever changing and there is no destination. The only destination that exists is the fake one you created in your head. So what I have been trying to do this year is enjoy the journey. Which is hard for me, because there is a deadline right? I have to get some where after all! It must be working with attorney’s for 19 years and working under deadlines that has probably hardwired that thought into my brain. Although, that work never ends either. There is always another case, another file, another client to work with right? It’s never ending. Kind of like life. It’s never ending. Well, until it finally ends and we die, but then that isn’t the end either is it?

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What this awesome year of 2017 has taught me is that life is so much more than just going to work, earning money, and paying bills. It’s about enjoying the journey we are all on. It’s about making time for your family and making new friends and throwing conventions out the window and just enjoying what’s in front of you. The reality is this life sucks sometimes, and it isn’t fair most of the time. We get let down, we get hurt, we get frustrated and angry at our situations but those situations are temporary.  This life is temporary and beyond this life is so much more that we can’t even really comprehend at the moment. This life is about learning to love ourselves. Learning to love each other. Learning that even if we get knocked down we can get up again and move on. That we don’t have to carry all of that weight with us. There are so many things that I can look at in my own life and just think….this isn’t fair. Why did I have to go through that or why did someone I love have to go through that? Why did my brother have to be in such pain that he took his own life? Why did his daughter, my niece, get ripped from our family by her mother? Why did those things happen? They are truly heartbreaking things. But you know what I’ve learned is that there is a plan, and we don’t know the entire plan. We don’t know what God knows. Will I ever see my brother’s daughter again in this life? I don’t know. But…..after this life we are promised that if we endure to the end and keep the Lord’s covenants that it will all work out after this life! What?! Seriously!  I mean, yeah, it sucks right now….and we wish to be with loved ones now but this life is very temporary and very short in the grand scheme of things.

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Basically, everyone has different trials they are faced with in this life and no two people have the exact same trial and even if it is similar, no two people have the same reaction or solution to that trial. Sometimes the answer is to just be patient. Sometimes the answer is that a particular blessing isn’t meant for you in this lifetime. Sometimes the trial is accepting the fact that you didn’t get what you wanted when you wanted it. But it doesn’t mean you go without forever. I’ve spent a lot of years feeling sorry for myself for one reason or another because no matter how hard I tried, things just didn’t connect like I wanted them to. The problem was that it was what I wanted, and I didn’t stop to think that maybe it wasn’t what God wanted at the time. Maybe, I just needed to be humbled enough to where I could actually see the Journey and not focus on the destination. I needed to take a certain path that really was quite hard to take before I could see the beauty in the journey.  When I was shown that path, when I was humbled enough to look outside myself, in the blink of an eye, I saw the light. I saw the journey, I saw the miracles and the blessings. We spend so much time worrying about what we don’t have, we don’t stop to look at what we do have.

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If we look to God in all things, and rely on His wisdom and spirit to guide us, we will find that while the journey might be long, and hard and unfair sometimes, He promises that He will make it worth it if we endure to the end. There are so many things that distract us from the journey. When we are worrying about those things we are thinking about the destination and not thinking about living the journey. However, focusing on the journey of life, on the gospel, and enduring to the end, will bring you everlasting peace and happiness for eternity! Eternity, so I hear, is a very long time….much longer than this temporary state we are in. So, Are we there yet?

2017, The Year of Me, Just Let it Be

2017, The Year of Me, Just Let it Be

I started this blog at the beginning of the year. I wasn’t sure why I was starting it. I was searching for something, just something to get myself out of the funk that I was in, I guess. The previous year had been a difficult year and I was just mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained.  I was a shell of my former self.  So I started this blog, I think, hoping it would just create some sort of outlet for me to express myself, or hoping it would somehow fill that void. I was empty inside in every sense of the word. There just wasn’t anything left.  I know I haven’t written anything in about 6 weeks or so. I had tried to start writing something a couple of times but couldn’t finish them. I was trying to figure out why writing was so easy before and now it was just not there. I think the answer is that these last 4 months have been AMAZING! So much has happened and it’s happened so fast and there was almost too much to write about and of course some of it was just way to personal to blog about.

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As you may recall, if you’ve read the previous blogs, that I’ve taken a spiritual journey over the last 4 months. It’s been quite a ride. It started with a song and there is no end. The song was the catalyst that got the ball rolling and once the ball was rolling there was no stopping it. It just kept gaining momentum.  It’s hit a few bumps here and there, maybe got stuck in a couple of narrow passage ways, but it always broke free and kept rolling.

This year will go down in the history of my life as one of the best years ever. For one, a new President took office in January, one that this country really needed. A President who didn’t just talk the talk but walked the walk. He had a plan and started executing it on day 1. Hallelujah! Then of course there was the song that I performed with my dear friend Griffin, who is a genius with music, by the way. I started going back to my ward at church regularly, met with the Bishop, and now I have a calling in Primary. I seriously didn’t expect all of this when I agreed to sing the song. I had no idea that it would transform my life, like it did. I started reading the Book of Mormon daily and trying to pray daily (which is a bit of a challenge for me). Just doing these little things has made all the difference in my life. Fear has been replaced by Faith. While sometimes I do still worry and let fear take over, I find that I’m able to brush it aside much more quickly than I used to be able to. I don’t dwell on it too long anymore. That is the difference of faith over fear. You learn to just say that it will all work out somehow. If I do the things I know I’m supposed to and if I have done everything in my power to fix whatever the situation is, then at that point I’ve done all I can do and I can just let it go. Let it be so to speak.

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What I’ve learned is that the Lord never leaves me. Sometimes he doesn’t give you the answer you want or the answer you expected to get but he is always there and he always answers. Even if the answer is just no, and sometimes the answer is “let it be”.  I’ve learned that the power of the priesthood is absolutely a real thing. I’ve had more than one experience with the blessings received by the power of the priesthood. Who knew right?! I didn’t know, because the priesthood had pretty much always been absent from my home both as a child and as a grown up. So I didn’t really understand its true power until just this year. I’m so grateful for worthy priesthood holders who are willing to share their priesthood blessings with me when needed. It’s just been miraculous to see and to witness and to experience.

I realize that there is so much more to this gospel of Jesus Christ that I never really realized before. I’ve been a member my entire life and there are things that I didn’t understand until just this year. It’s like a light bulb came on and there it was. I have a testimony of the power of a Ward family who fellowships one another and who looks out for one another and who never turn down an opportunity to serve. Service is a huge thing that I think I was missing. I still don’t feel I have the opportunity to serve much yet, but I’m hoping to be able to serve more as time goes on. Accepting the primary calling is a start.

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I’ve learned that the Lord sometimes puts us in other people’s lives for a reason so that we can help that other person with something they are struggling with. It’s very divine and very orchestrated and once you stop and look back at it, there are no coincidences. Someone may be put in your life to help you or teach you something and you may be put in someone else’s life to do the same thing. It’s actually pretty inspiring to think about how God’s hand is in everything. I can definitely see how my life has been blessed this year. That’s not to say I haven’t had some very dark times or feelings this year, I have, but because people were put in my life this year to help me navigate that and to help me to not give up, I came through those brief dark times and gained strength and gained a testimony of the truth of the Gospel. I also gained a testimony of the power of the priesthood, the blessings of serving others, and probably most importantly that I am a divine daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me and who never gives up on me and who wants me to be happy and healthy and return to him one day. I gained a testimony of the power of the temple and the blessings afforded by the temple. I currently don’t have a valid recommend now, but I’m hoping to have one, hopefully this year. But regardless it will be in His timing, not mine.

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This year has been a year of self discovery for me. I’ve discovered things about myself that I didn’t even know. I always thought I knew myself pretty well, but there were things that were pushed down so deep that I didn’t even know they were there. So this year has also been me purging all of that. Just letting it go and getting rid of it. All the negativity, all the junk, all of the self-deprecating thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, just purged. Does that mean I’ll never feel those things again? Probably not, it just won’t hurt as much, if at all. I’ll still remember them, cause unfortunately the atonement doesn’t erase minds or memories, but I don’t have to feel bad about them anymore, it’s like remembering someone’s memories that aren’t your own. You sort of see it from an outside perspective after that. You know it was your memory but you don’t feel the pain that goes with the memory, it’s just that, a memory. Almost like it wasn’t you, and that is very powerful. Because it frees you, you don’t feel the weight of it anymore.  In fact, you didn’t even realize how heavy it was until you let it go.

I can’t change my past. But I don’t have to live in my past anymore. Because this year is all about me! And when the Spirit tells you to let it be…..trust me, just let it be……

Blessings of the Atonement -Are they Real?

Blessings of the Atonement -Are they Real?

YES! End of Blog!

Just kidding….the short answer is yes. The blessings of the Atonement are real. Absolutely. How do I know? Because I’ve lived it. If anyone who has read my blog and actually knows me, they know that I don’t blog about things I haven’t experienced or that I don’t have some experience with. As my blog states, everyone has an opinion, here is mine. So my opinion’s are very much derived from life experience. Also, if you’ve read my blog, you have seen somewhat of the journey I have taken since January. Not necessarily the specifics, but you get the gist.

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Here is what I know about the Atonement and blessings. I know that Jesus Christ selflessly died on the cross for our sins so that we can return to our Heavenly Father one day. I know that Heavenly Father sacrificed his son to do this for all of his spirit children. That is the basics of it anyway. The short answer of how we have the atonement. But what is the atonement? The Atonement is more than just the act of Christ saving us. It is the process by which we come unto him with broken hearts and contrite spirits. The process of recognizing our weaknesses so that he can turn them into strengths. The process of letting go of our pride and giving it up to Him. Letting Him shoulder our burdens so we don’t have to feel them alone. The atonement is so much more than just sinning and repenting. When you truly recognize the spirit in your life, when you finally realize that you are not ever left alone if you just submit to His will, you feel of his eternal, unconditional love for you. You realize that He never abandoned you, but that you walked away. He never left. You did. Once you recognize that even if you left, he is still there eagerly awaiting your return, you can fully appreciate the sacrifice, the love, the yearning that He has for you to recognize your true potential in his eternal plan. His plan is perfect, His timing is perfect, and you are perfect in His eyes. There is nothing you have done or could do in the future that He will not forgive. He will always forgive you. All you need do is ask, with a sincere and humble heart and He will give it freely.

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Once we have come to this place of a broken heart and contrite spirit, and we submit our Will to His. The blessings are poured out. It will be impossible not to see them. At least it was for me. It was impossible to see all of the miraculous things that happened as anything but divine intervention. I mean, there are coincidences and then there are miracles. So what’s the difference, well, for me it’s the timing of things. It’s how things appeared orchestrated from above and there being no way that many coincidences could happen all at once. But mostly, it’s the spirit testifying to you that these things are true. It’s the spirit telling you that this is His plan for you. I promise you that if you align your will with His, that you will see it. It will be impossible not to see it. That’s the best way I can describe it. It will just be undeniable. Things that used to be so important to you, that were not aligned with His will, will no longer seem important and you will naturally steer yourself away from them.  It will just happen so naturally.

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I used to think the atonement was this abstract concept that sounded nice in theory, or even sounded scary a bit. It was because I’d never really tried to use it. I mean I did, a few years ago I went to the bishop and confessed 20 years worth of sins and I felt better. I even went to the temple in 2010. I’ll be honest, I thought I was converted at that time. I thought, I made it to the temple.  A place I never thought I’d go. Truly, I never thought I’d make it there. But there I was taking out my endowments. It was a blessed day. My mistake was that I wasn’t really ready. Yes, I’d gone through what I thought was the repentance process. I thought I’d done what I was supposed to do and that I’d arrived. So why did it not work? Well, it did, in part. I was forgiven for my past sins. They were washed clean and I didn’t need to worry about them anymore. That was absolutely true. But what I lacked was the rest. By that I mean, I didn’t understand God’s plan for me. I didn’t understand that he would always be there for me. I didn’t understand how to earn a blessing. I didn’t.

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The stark difference now, is that I recognize (through the help of dear friends and the spirit) that I was so much more to my Heavenly Father than I realized. That He cared about me personally. That He had a divine plan for me. That He allowed me to go through some things alone so that when I was ready, I could feel His full power, and the spirit in all it’s glory. Had I not taken a different path to get there, I would not have recognized it. Sometimes, He let’s us stray. I didn’t understand that. I always thought, why would He let me go so far off course without warning me? And to be fair, maybe he did and I ignored it. But I also think, sometimes He let’s us stray enough to see the other side of things, so that we recognize the truth more when we see it. It’s kind of like when you tell a child not to touch a hot stove and they reach out and touch it anyway. Why? Because a hot stove to a child is an abstract concept. They don’t know what hot is, so unless they touch it and feel that hot burns, they don’t get the concept of “hot”. I think it’s the same with our Heavenly Father, sometimes, He let’s us touch the stove because then, we know for ourselves and the idea isn’t abstract anymore. But, just like when your kids burn themselves on the stove, they come to you to heal them. To make it better. Heavenly Father does the same for us. He heals our souls when we have touched the stove and need to be healed. The atonement is the healing power. The blessings are that, while our Heavenly Father grieves with us over our pain, He doesn’t say, I told you so. He just applies the healing power of the spirit, and then blesses us with peace, with support, with all the things we need to get better and to stay better. Those blessings are absolutely real.

I know that these things are true. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and blesses my life daily. I feel his love for me. I feel how He is rejoicing for me right now for finally not touching the hot stove. For turning to Him so he can heal me. If you haven’t felt the blessings of the atonement in your life, you should try it! It absolutely works and I have a testimony of that. I know the stove is hot now! Don’t touch it!

Finding Strength in Unholy Places

Finding Strength in Unholy Places

I started this blog around 5 weeks ago. As stated in my first blog, I wasn’t sure why I started it. I am still not sure. I think it was a need to get my thoughts out instead of holding them in to fester. For some reason, typing them out was easier than just talking to someone in person. I think because if I suddenly spewed all of these thoughts out on a person they’d be overwhelmed or at the very least, avoid talking to me again. I’ve probably over shared in some of my posts, inadvertently. You see, my posts are very much just an idea that my stream of consciousness runs away with.  I’ve learned recently that I should at the very least, not publish all of my thoughts. Live and learn right?

So back to my current thought, finding strength in unholy places, I’m sure that title seems strange. It is, in the sense that unholy is subjective, but the strength is real. So what do I mean by that? Well, I mean that my life is very much unorthodox when it comes to most LDS, married women’s lives. I’m sure I’m not the only one with my circumstances, but I’m the only one I know of.  I haven’t always found strength, in fact until recently I would just buckle. I suppose that was easier, or at least I thought it was. Quite frankly, it only seemed easier at the time.

 

As I sit in my living room, the night before fast Sunday, fasting for the first time in years, my thoughts are on strength. I’m looking at the pictures on my walls, which is a Hodge-podge of pictures such as: a gorgeous picture of Christ with a child on his lap with the quote from Matthew 28:20 “For Lo, I am with you Always” inscribed on it, family photos, a picture of the Manti Temple and the Las Vegas Temple, posters from the suicide prevention website, “To Write Love on Her Arms”, my brother’s eulogy, the Proclamation to the Family, Football memorabilia, Motorcycle paraphernalia,and a large painting of a motorcycle club that my husband belongs to, among other things. I realize the things that are important to me. My family, first and foremost, Christ, my deceased brother’s memory,  music and the biker lifestyle. Pretty eclectic right? I have always felt comfortable (at least after I got older anyway)  in most situations. I am adaptable to most things. I can be comfortable sitting in church on Sunday by myself and also comfortable  hanging at the bar later on. I am comfortable listening to (and I love) rock and roll, #aerosmithisthegreatestrockbandever, country, punk, alternative, underground bands, etc. You name it, I am probably comfortable hearing it. I don’t flinch at curse words the way some people do. I am comfortable letting strangers sleep on my couch (well, strangers to me, my husband usually knows them or knows someone who knows them) but still strangers none the less. So when I say, strength in unholy places, I mean places where the spirit generally doesn’t dwell. My house for example. The spirit dwells there temporarily, but never permanently, by virtue of external factors that may come into my house.  I love the life I have. I think maybe a few months ago I might not have said that. The lifestyle catches up to you at some point. But, having reevaluated how I deal with the situations, I find that I do love my life. I love the bikes, and the noise, and the friends/family, the smell of cigarette smoke and whiskey. I love the loud music and the lyrics and the feeling. I love the company that stays at my house at a moments notice. I love riding on the back of my husband’s Harley in a pack of other Harley riders, heading down the road with the wind in my face and tunes blasting in my earphones.

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What I have found, is that I can stand alone in these places, in these situations, and I can still be me. That I don’t have to buckle under them to make things easier. I used to think I did. But now I know I don’t. So I find strength every time I go to a bar and I stand alone. I find strength every time I find the joy, the pleasure, and the fun in the situation that others may find cringe worthy. That yes, I can even laugh, dance, and make jokes, and that I don’t have to buckle. The strength comes from within me, regardless of the holiness or UN-holiness of the situation. What I lacked before was the faith in myself that I could stand alone. I always stated that I didn’t lose my faith in God. I really didn’t, it was faith in myself that I lost.

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I get that it isn’t a lifestyle for everyone, and not everyone could exist in it. But this is my life, this is where my journey took me and it’s chaotic at times, and it’s loud, and it’s atypical, but it’s perfect. Yet, I also find strength in the scriptures, in the church hymns, and the talks and lessons in church. I find strength at the temple, just walking around the temple grounds. I find strength in friendship and in music. I find a lot of strength in music I think. It grounds me, regardless of if it is rock and roll or if it is a beautiful piano solo of a well-known hymn. I think that everyone should find what brings them strength and figure out how that fits in your life regardless of how typical or atypical it is. I truly believe that the Lord understands each of us individually and understands that different things strengthen different people. I don’t feel like there is a one size fits all recipe to finding strength in the gospel. So whether you find it at church in a pew, or on the back of a motorcycle, or in playing music or singing music, or however your strength is revealed, remember that you can find strength in any situation because the strength is within you because the light of Christ is in all of us and we all have the ability to feel that strength. We just have to reach inside ourselves and find what triggers that strength in us. You can always stand in holy places, even if you stand alone and even if the external environment is unholy because the holiness and the strength lies within you.

All Roads Lead Home

All Roads Lead Home

I was lying in bed this morning and suddenly I just started thinking about how all the roads I have taken have led me here. It seemed miraculous really. So I started thinking, what if all roads lead here? What if no matter what road I’d taken, I would end up exactly in this place. Exactly where I’m supposed to be. Lying in bed next to the man I love. What if no matter how much we screw up. How far off course we get, we still end up back home, meaning back with our Heavenly Father. What if?

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It’s an intriguing thought, again this is just my opinion, and I’m not spouting doctrine here. But honestly, the thought came so clear to my mind this morning that all roads lead home. That was such a comforting thought to me. I think, well, rather I know that sometimes we all get bogged down in this quagmire of life and trying to live the gospel and do the right thing. Sometimes we get so focused on doing the right thing and following the path we think is the right path, that we forget there is more than one path. It’s true, there are many paths before us and sometimes we get so caught up in following someone else’s path that we forget we have a choice and can follow our own and that taking that path may not necessarily be wrong.

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I know, that sounds crazy right, but stay with me here. If any of you have followed my blog you’ve been clued in somewhat to my journey. So what do I mean by taking another path might not be wrong? Well, if you grew up LDS like I did, you likely were told that there is one path, maybe not in that way but basically you probably got the idea you go to church every Sunday, you pray every morning and every evening and before meals, you read your scriptures daily, you get baptized at 8, you go to young women’s or young men’s meetings and all of the camps and functions provided. You graduate high school and go on a mission or go to college for a year and then go on a mission. You go to BYU! You then marry a returned missionary in the temple and you start a family within a year. Am I close? Yeah, that’s the path right? That is the only path that can get you back to Heavenly Father. Right? Wrong! Okay now before I start getting messages from people who did follow that path saying how wrong I am, stay with me. Your path was not wrong. I’m not saying that. I’m saying, that path isn’t the only path. I’m saying that for many people who chose another path, that their path leads to the same place. So I’m not saying your path was wrong. I’m saying your path isn’t for everyone and there are many path’s that will lead back to salvation and back to Heavenly Father.

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So, I know, I kind of give Utah Mormon’s a hard time, for that I’m sorry. But, I feel like being a Utah born and bred Mormon that I absolutely have the right to point out some of the flaws. In other words, I’m not some outsider who never lived there. I grew up there. So, forgive me for being a little harsh here, but suck it up because while it doesn’t apply to every Utah Mormon there are enough Utah Mormon’s that it does apply to who warrant having it pointed out. Furthermore, if the idea that I’m pointing this out bothers you, you might want to ask yourself why you are offended by it. Is it because you are from Utah, or is it because deep down you know it’s true? Either way, it isn’t meant to be malicious, it’s meant to make people take notice of the fact that people are leaving the church, leaving the gospel because if you take a different path than the standard path mentioned above, people make you feel like you are less than worthy somehow. It is a real problem in my opinion and again, this is just my opinion. So if we as faithful members of this great church can recognize that maybe we get a little to self righteous, that maybe we get a little to judgemental, so much so that people would rather leave their faith than be in a church building with us, then maybe we need to think about teaching or speaking about the plan of salvation and about the plan God has for us in a much different tone. One that includes everyone and not just the one’s that follow the standardized path to exaltation.

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Okay, so now that I’ve offended half of Utah, again sorry, but not sorry, let’s talk about how every path leads back to Heavenly Father. It really does because I can’t count how many different paths I’ve taken. Too many to count, and yet I end up here. I end up writing this blog and realizing for myself that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us unconditionally. Think about what that means? Unconditionally? Meaning, he doesn’t care how we got here. I’m sure he shed tears for us and was concerned for us on our Journey, but the point is it is our journey. He let us find our own path for a reason. One could argue if I had taken the clearly marked path ahead of me with all the signs and followed the herd so to speak all the way to the pearly gates without deviating that I would have had a happier life. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. We will never know. But I want to disagree, for me, I don’t think that my life would have been happier doing it the standard way. I really don’t. Because I wouldn’t have known what real happiness felt like, because in order for me to know what that felt like, I had to feel real pain and real sorrow and real regret so that I’d recognize it when it finally arrived. I had to take all those paths so that I would recognize the right one as the right one when I got there. I think this is true for more people than not.

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All roads lead home because God did not design a plan where most of his children would be destined to fail. Heavenly Father is a genius of epic proportions. He is perfect in his love and he is perfect in his judgement and he is perfect in the plan he designed. So, the good news is that there are many roads home and most of us will likely make it there. Imagine that. Most of his children? That is a lot over the history since Adam and Eve and beyond. All of us will take our own paths, we will make our own ways, and some of us will figure out a lot of it here on earth but a lot of us will not until after we are gone, but the paths continue after we are gone, so even though we take some paths here, we will still be taking our journey after we are dead and this is where, all roads lead home!

Amazing!

Amazing!

Have you ever just woke up feeling amazing? If you haven’t then you need to figure out what in your life is missing because I just realized I’ve spent far to many years not feeling like this, and guess what? I’d rather feel amazing. How did I get to this point in my life? Well, to put it bluntly, by doing all the wrong things first! Now, that is not a strategy I recommend to anyone, if you are able, please figure it out sooner and then you’ll be happier sooner. I’ve always felt like I have a testimony of the things I believe in. For those of you who are LDS, you know what I mean. I believe that this church is true, I believe that we have a prophet on the earth today who guides us. His name is Thomas S. Monson. I believe that Joseph F. Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost and restored the true gospel to the earth in this dispensation. Yada, yada, yada. Right? Everyone has heard that testimony. That is the testimony I have, the fundamentals. The other part of my testimony was gained by doing all the wrong things and then figuring out after the fact that I was wrong. So in other words, the hard way. But you know what? I really don’t think I would change how I got here. Even if I look back at all the decisions I’ve made all of the things that have happened in my life, all of the heartache and suffering, I really don’t think I’d change a thing.

I am almost 43 years old. I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints my entire life. Born and raised in Utah, no less. So how does someone who is born and raised in the church, parents married in the temple, given a blessing at birth, baptized at 8, went to Seminary, etc, all the things that every good “mormon girl” does in Utah, and well everywhere else I guess, how does that person go astray?  It’s simple, you can be born a member, raised a member, watch countless members abide by the culture that appears to be “Mormonism” and yet watch them not really live the gospel. So as a young adolescent, seeing that even in my own home, starts to make you think, I don’t want to be a part of this hypocritical crowd. Like how fake, right? I used to joke that I had to come to Sin City to find true LDS people. People who walked the walk and talked the talk, because from where I grew up, I just didn’t see it. Now, I’m not saying every LDS person in Utah is fake. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I haven’t met every person in Utah so how could I say that? I have members of my family who are very faithful members of the church. So I don’t want to paint all of Utah in that light but, quite honestly, there is a mormon culture in Utah that just is very different from the rest of the country or world. It’s true. I think just because so many people in Utah grew up as members of the church that it was sort of expectation. Sort of a given that you would be this very faithful member of the church just by virtue of being from Utah. That is not the case. Every person, whether born in the church or whether becoming a convert later has to be converted in their own right. You can’t coast on someone else’s testimony for your entire life. It just doesn’t work. But I digress.  So I sort of consciously but unconsciously chose to become in active as a member when I was probably 16 or 17 years old. I just saw this hypocrisy within the realms of my small existence, my small little corner of the world, where I determined that was the whole of the church. Obviously a very immature and adolescent way of thinking.

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I went about my life, thinking, I am so independent and I don’t need anyone’s help in life, because I’ve got this. Fast forward 3 years and I had just ended a long-term and long distance relationship when I met my Husband, Bob. This was after I graduated high school and I’d just turned 19.  We got married in 1995 after living together for 2 years. I was still in active and my husband isn’t a member of the church, but one would argue, if I had not went on the path I went on, I never would have met him. I’m so glad that I did because my life wouldn’t be what it is without him. I remember driving home from work one day and thinking (mind you I had not been to church or done anything church related other than get married in a church) since I was probably 17. I was now in my 20’s probably about 24ish I’d say. So I’m driving home and I get this thought that just comes to my mind that was a question really. My thought that just randomly entered my mind was, I wonder where a LDS church even is in this city? Like very weird out of nowhere. I thought nothing of it, when I got home there was a voicemail on my answering machine from someone in the Cedar Creek Ward saying “hi, this is so, and so, from the Cedar Creek Ward, I just wanted to let you know that we received your records and wanted to make sure you knew where the church building was and what time we meet?” So he proceeds to leave that information on my answering machine.  Whoa! Right? I had literally just had that thought driving home. So next thing I know I have a visiting teacher stop by my house to introduce herself and she invited me to a relief society function. So that is how I ended up coming back to church. Back in the sense, I went every Sunday, or as many as I could. Then I found out I was pregnant with our daughter probably a year or so later. I remember deciding I was going to raise this baby in the church because it was all I knew.  So I went to church more regularly. Still never quite converted myself, but I went. I remember walking up at the temple grounds while I was like 6 months pregnant, just pouring out my heart saying that I promised the Lord that even if I never fully repented or fully came back I would raise my daughter in the church.

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Fast forward a few years and I moved into the Palmyra Ward. Mikayla was 4 years old and a very rambunctious, loud, toddler. I remember that I loved the Cedar Creek Ward so much because I saw what real LDS people behaved like. I saw that they weren’t fake and that they lived the gospel as best they could and were just really great people.  So I was a little afraid of moving into a new Ward. But the Palmyra Ward turned out to be even better. I remember first thinking, I don’t belong here because all these people seem so together, like they have it all figured out and as funny as it sounds, I noticed the manicured hands and pedicured feet on the women, thinking, wow, I don’t belong with these people, they are far to classy. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, because they have all been super wonderful to me and my family. As you can see, my progression was just very slow. I did what I could at the time. I didn’t actually go and see a bishop to start any kind of repentance process until probably 2009 or late 2008, not sure. It took that long. Meanwhile, Mikayla was baptized in 2008, my brother passed away in 2009. I finally received a Patriarchal Blessing in December of 2009, and then in 2010 I got my temple recommend, which I have previously talked about before. Pretty miraculous right? Obviously I’m leaving out a lot of gory details about my own personal journey, but that is because those details don’t matter really. They are just events and things that happened in my life that are part of my history but don’t make up who I am as a person.

So yay! I made it to the temple, took out my endowments and went to the temple that first 2 years as often as I could. Then, in probably 2014 middle of 2014 I’d say, I made a choice to step away from the church again. I know, what? Why? It’s simple, and I just figured it out. I wasn’t fully converted. I wasn’t. I had walked the walk and talked the talk, but inside I didn’t feel it. Not really. I had problems with feeling the spirit except maybe in the temple which I always did, but it’s like the spirit didn’t speak to me personally all the time. I couldn’t feel it. It was hard for me to determine what was the spirit and what wasn’t. I didn’t fully understand that myself then. I didn’t understand that until recently. I had repented, received a patriarchal blessing, went to the temple, and I couldn’t feel it. Something was just missing still. It was a personal testimony of the Holy Ghost, of personal revelation. I was missing the point really.

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So over the last 4 years, I went astray and went back to my old life. I remember a few years ago a friend of mine saying “I don’t understand how someone can grow up in the gospel and basically have the same up bringing I did, and yet they totally went a different direction and didn’t stay in the church” (something to that effect). Since I have personally been there, I said, it’s easy really. I think she didn’t really understand that because she’d never really strayed. But if you have strayed, let me tell you how easy it is. It’s as easy as breathing, or walking. The reason it’s easy for some, is because they don’t feel it. It’s easy when you don’t have that amazing feeling with you all the time. It’s just easy. It was just easy for me, even after going through the temple to say, yeah, I’m just going to not do this anymore. I’m going to go back into the big and spacious building because I just don’t feel it and at least in the big and spacious building there are lots of people there. Maybe I’ll feel something over there. It really is that easy.

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So now, today, in this moment I feel alive, I feel the spirit, I just feel again. I finally feel what I think I didn’t feel before. Have I made my way back to the temple yet? No, have I made my way back to the Bishop’s office yet? No. Will I? Probably, but what I also know, is that I took that long road there before, and I’ll likely have to take that long road back and I’m not in a rush to do it. Not because of fear or anything, because I feel like there is a process for myself. I feel like it has to be the right time, much like it had to be the right time last time. I believe that maybe I was meant to go to the temple in 2010 for various reasons, and I also feel like I was meant to step away again. Because the Lord knows that for me to learn a lesson, I have to actually live it. I can’t just be told to do this or don’t do that, I am actually someone who doesn’t learn that way. I learn by doing. By living. By sometimes taking the wrong path and having to back track my way back. If I didn’t do those things, I would not be the person I am today. I would not feel the amazing feeling I feel right now. I would not be writing it down in this blog, completely unashamed of who may or may not read it. This moment was orchestrated. The people I’ve met were supposed to meet me. The people who’ve entered my life were supposed to be there. The people who left my life were supposed to leave at the times they did. Nothing is by accident and it’s all part of a plan. Does this mean that I won’t take a wrong turn again? Of course not. Does this mean that my life will be easy now that I feel this way and I know these things? Of course not. Because I don’t do things the easy way. But that is the beautiful part about it, it’s my life! I choose freely how to live it with the Lord as my captain, but I still have the wheel. I’m still steering it, but I know, no matter what direction I take, he always has my back. He always has a plan for me. Don’t worry, because it all works out in the end and it’s Amazing!